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Taking rockets to new heights

Rocket club group
November 01, 2013

Icarus Rocketry, the newest club in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, has quite literally lofty goals for the coming year.

By the end of the school year, members of the Icarus team aim to become the first student-driven team to design a high-powered rocket that flies to an altitude of 100,000 feet, said Peter Nguyen, team project director. Mount Everest is about 29,000 feet above sea level.

The team, which was founded this past summer, doesn’t want to stop there.

Within the next three years, Icarus plans on breaking all altitude records set by university rocketry groups by flying a rocket to an altitude of 100 kilometers, the height commonly accepted as the edge of space, Nguyen said.

“Most people, when they think of rocketry, think of model rockets like the kind you build in high school,” Nguyen said. “But high-powered rockets regularly reach altitudes of a few thousand feet.”

With flying at the forefront of their initial agenda, the Icarus team wants to give its members the opportunity to fly at rocketry competitions, Nguyen said. The team plans on using commercial rocket parts to achieve their first flight goal of 100,000 feet and to fly at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition in June, he said.

To get to higher altitudes, however, the team will build its own rockets from scratch.

“As we progress toward becoming the first student group that hits the edge of space, we’ll have to work on building our own propulsion systems,” Nguyen said.

The team’s high altitude goals also have research applications, Nguyen said.

“Once we have the capability to reach 100 kilometers, we could use our rockets as a test platform within the School of Earth and Space Exploration for those who want to test experiments in low gravity or high altitude conditions,” he said.

Goals aside, Icarus is still in the initial stages of teaching its members about rocketry. The club meets at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays, in room 226 of the Bateman Physical Sciences Center – F Wing, on the Tempe campus, for workshops on recovery systems, design software and propulsion systems.

The club welcomes students from any major, as long as they are interested in rocketry and willing to learn.

“We have a good mix of graduate and undergraduate majors from astrophysics, systems design and engineering, but we’ll catch anyone up to speed as long as they’re interested and committed,” he said.

Icarus Rocketry is not associated with Daedalus Astronautics, a high-powered rocketry club at ASU that was called ICARUS when it was founded in 2001.

For more information, contact Peter Nguyen at

Written by Kristen Hwang.